Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


Leave a comment

Once upon a tone…

I’m having trouble reading.  A smorgasboard of fascinating printed material, practically glowing inside beautifully designed covers – right in front of me, and I can’t find the anchor point, the stillness that gives permission to dive in and engage, without great effort.

It’s not glasses – I replaced my old foggy set with two exceptionally clear and useful pair, gone the headaches.  It’s not disinterest – I couldn’t be more passionate about the material this Masters course and my own inquiries offer me, or hungrier to understand more deeply.

Not schedule, not lack of sleep, not poor health, not an ability to interpret and articulate, focus or retain but still a trouble I am increasingly aware of.

It’s my patience, my attention span.  Somehow in the past four years, I’ve become hooked into distraction.

YellowBell_April3

Point-of-view alters understanding.

I need to consciously choose to dig into a new concept now. Decide, again and again to make a practise of reading each paragraph two times (necessary, to understand the irrationality of the Pythagorean comma and it’s resulting philosophical effect on the holy trinity, and hence contemporary governance).  I take mental and written notes, then move on only when I feel the bell of understanding resonate in my bones and blood.  The next time I sit down with the same book, I review, repeat, wait for the bell, then move on.

One hundred hundred chews per mouthful.  If I don’t do this I reach the end of a chapter and all I can think about is …. whether Donald Trump represents for our times the black hole that is Pythagoras’ comma.

Bell_Yellow2Mar16

So.  Throw paint at something, and find the sanctuary of ‘Do.’, away from the beckoning screen, the humming pile of books.

Thank you, iPhone, thank you Macbook Pro.  This is the result of you and your entire ecosystem of marketed convenience.  Three years ago I did an art project called #selfie that required extensive online research into and active participation in social media that still has me connected to thousands of people I know only virtually. Two years ago I dived into the vast ocean of tweeters and texters by accepting a 4s into my life, and the result was the twisting of my thought processes, overloading of my senses with so much irrelevant data that my mind – my mind – needs remedial care, just so I can read.  A Book.

And yet, books are the better diet, I’m finding.  Lightly sprinkled with internet research, they are once more becoming the oatmeal of my day.  I have receptors for this information, still. Each time I insist, my attention span lengthens a little more.

bell_sept15_detail

The Tone of Our Times (2014, MIT), by Frances Dyson – the main course of my reading at the moment.  Dyson is connected to a community of Scientists and Artists (ISAST) who have some simple goals:

  1. To advocate, document and make known the work of artists, researchers and scholars developing the new ways that contemporary arts interact with science, technology and society.
  2. To create a forum and meeting places where artists, scientists and engineers can meet, exchange ideas, and, where appropriate, collaborate.
  3. To contribute, through the interaction of the arts and sciences, to the creation of the new culture that will be needed to transition to a sustainable planetary society.

Important book.  Sassy, even, to my reading ear, and very dense.  I’m on page seven of the intro and already I’ve needed to dig into terms and references online, like monochord … cosmology; techno-gnosis; doxa…

yellowbell_nov2015psd

A hundred hundred chews, and not too much at once.  Here are the first two points of Ed Boyden’s (also MIT) advice about “Managing brain resources in an age of complexity” (November 13, 2007)

When I applied for my faculty job at the MIT Media Lab, I had to write a teaching statement. One of the things I proposed was to teach a class called “How to Think,” which would focus on how to be creative, thoughtful, and powerful in a world where problems are extremely complex, targets are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like nodes of enormous networks that constantly reconfigure. In the process of thinking about this, I composed 10 rules, which I sometimes share with students. I’ve listed them here, followed by some practical advice on implementation.

1. Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read, even when you’re reading what you conceive to be introductory stuff. That way, you will always aim towards understanding things at a resolution fine enough for you to be creative.

2. Learn how to learn (rapidly). One of the most important talents for the 21st century is the ability to learn almost anything instantly, so cultivate this talent. Be able to rapidly prototype ideas. Know how your brain works. (I often need a 20-minute power nap after loading a lot into my brain, followed by half a cup of coffee. Knowing how my brain operates enables me to use it well.)

So I change it up, the reading, and I don’t gorge myself.  I also have dessert waiting for me – a beautiful little book titled Once Upon a Time; A Short history of fairy tale, by Marina Warner (Oxford, 2014).

yellowbell_nov2015_bw

She begins, “Imagine the history of fairy tale as a map, like the Carte du Tendre, the ‘Map of Tenderness’, drawn by Parisian romancers to chart the peaks and sloughs of the heart’s affections….”

Ah, how I love a good map.  But first, a little paint throwing, and then half a cup of coffee outside in the long autumn sunlight.


2 Comments

#Selfie Post 3: Paralysis

Week 2 of Selfie Project:  goin in…

I need to come clean and report that I experienced two days of work paralysis after the shock of posting my face online 4.5 days ago.  I actually needed to sleep off the bewilderment of feeling exposed before I could find my focus again & get back to the work.  I do get that it’s not that big a deal from the other side, over there where people are actually reading this.  For me though – this is NOT a muscle I have ever used so deliberately.  Nonetheless I made a professional commitment to go inside Selfie, so inside I go, straight at my own vulnerabilities…

Taught all day, then rehearsed a proms concert with the Symphony.  Not the face I want to face tonight.

Taught & worked all day, then rehearsed a proms concert with the Symphony. Not the face I want to face tonight.

A bit from the Selfie Synopsis:

 

I was a deeply introverted young person – not one to vocalize what I was feeling or thinking – I mostly just watched.  Because of this the people around me would fill in the blanks I’d left with whatever seemed to fit their idea of who I was. My family and acquaintances, & most friends would thus relate not to me but to their own projections onto my blank slate (this still happens unless I’m quick enough to correct it).  While this was initially convenient for me, it invariably led to internal confusion when I didn’t recognize the me other people were relating to…  I developed ways to become invisible – in a crowd, at the dinner table, in a classroom, in the school orchestra.  Later I used the same techniques on stage, at conferences, concerts and meetings.  The most effective of these was simply closing my eyes, but I also became adept at deflecting attention away from my internal self, and towards something – anything more shiny and attractive.  As a performer I realized after some years that most audience members didn’t actually want to know who I was or what I thought – they really just wanted a positive reflection of themselves.  Understanding that made life MUCH easier for me:  Ah!  Just be gracious!  I can do that.

I squirm when I see people of all ages and stages of life taking solo selfies and posting them, in all their vulnerability, on social media sites.  I see awkwardness, pain, sadness, exhaustion, lack of self-awareness, longing – perhaps projections from my own life?  (things do come back around, after all).  So often the response comments are either carefully banal “you’re so beautiful”, or rude, or insulting and disrespectful.  Sometimes the posted photos are so unfortunate they get circulated well beyond their intended reach to a global chorus of ridicule and derision.

This begs the question: What is actually happening here, and why?  But also, since I must face my own Self in this project:  What’s at the root of my own discomfort?

Ask a question, you get an answer.  But this question keeps getting bigger, more personal, more reflective, more….

What unfroze my thinking this week was listening to Seth Godin in an interview he gave on a program called On Being (posted by one of my facebook friends).  Here’s the link to it (recommended).  He says, among other things, that old social and professional norms are breaking down in our cultures, though we are largely unaware of this.  It’s no longer just a select group of trained people who can be artists for example, and make creative breakthroughs that change the world.  Now we are all artists, making the world as we see it, posting the results, and so creating a new way of seeing ourselves, and sharing it in the same instant.

Need a tripod.  This is going to get old, fast.

mirror work.

To address my own discomfort with what I perceive as other people’s ‘selfie behavior’ (now also mine, which makes me my ‘other’), I read Eric Fromm,

“We should free ourselves from the narrowness of being related only to those familiar to us, either by the fact that they are blood relations or, in a larger sense, that we eat the same food, speak the same language, and have the same “ common sense.” Knowing men [and women] in the sense of compassionate and empathetic knowledge requires that we get rid of the narrowing ties of a given society, race or culture and penetrate to the depth of that human reality in which we are all nothing but human. True compassion and knowledge of man has been largely underrated as a revolutionary factor in the development of man, just as art has been. It is a noteworthy phenomenon that in the development of capitalism and its ethics, compassion (or mercy) ceases to be a virtue.”

― Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology

My conclusion after week 2:  Selfie is self-examination, which is not comfortable, if one goes there with intent to be honest.  It requires courage to truly look at yourself, shoot yourself, then publish yourself without armour or packaging.  But art is risk, and always has been so.

If we are to see this in the context of this culture we are in that changes itself from the ground up, we are engaged in an artistic making of self-image that says with it’s public/private gaze:  I am here.

Is there also an echo question:  “Where are you?”

I think so.

more to come.

We make and share ourselves.

Week 3:   Paint.  But also sing and play this.  I’m scared to go there, so go there I must.